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I’m excited to have our first direct point – counterpoint columns this week. Kate Wilson weighs in today with her point of view on personal branding, authenticity and what constitutes being genuine vs. disingenuous. As mentioned in my original post yesterday, Kate makes very persuasive points. It seems we may be talking about differences in semantics, so I’ve suggested we need to get beyond a 140 character conversation on both this topic AND strategy. Until we do, enjoy Kate’s personal branding counterpoint:

Marketing Professional Kate WilsonBe authentic, be transparent, be a person other people WANT to do business with. These are points made again and again by the many social media ‘gurus’ I have read or listened to as they presented on engaging in the social space. Ok, I buy that. Business in any space is based on relationships. You buy from, listen to, connect with people that you like and trust.

So, how do you get people to like and trust you? By being yourself. So, how, unless you are schizophrenic, can you be two, three, four different personal brands and still be yourself?

No matter what business you represent you are still you…first and foremost a person with thoughts, feelings, opinions, views and a personality. You are this person no matter where you go or who you represent or who you interact with; this I believe is the definition of being an authentic person. You are who you are and adjusting that to fit the audience you are speaking to is disingenuous.

Now I am not speaking to the need when addressing a group of church goers to decide not to drop the F-bomb in order for the rest of your words to be heard so they don’t get caught up in the obscenity, that’s just manners…not branding. I am speaking to the practice of adjusting your viewpoint or personality to fit the context or audience you are in the midst of. Didn’t we hate those kids in school the ones who were whatever everyone wanted them to be or who everyone around them was, didn’t we have a name for them….oh right….FAKE.

Some may make the argument about varying content/interests and having different accounts depending on what topics you are talking about. It’s ok to be well-rounded, it’s even preferred. We all have varying interests and if you are only worth listening to on one subject what does that say about you? Sites like Twitter have lists to divide people by content and you might just have an opportunity to educate others on something new to them, because they follow you.

None of this is to mean that you shouldn’t place yourself in positions where you will interact with those who can either inspire/benefit you or vice versa; that’s just being smart about positioning yourself. Positioning yourself in the company of or in front of the right people isn’t having different brands for yourself; it’s still being the same person, just in a different locale.

And just to clarify I didn’t say I “drop the leavers” I said “people take or leave me, some leave me, and that’s ok…I’ll stick with the takers”. I have never believed in being anything that I wasn’t or being what anyone else wanted me to be I feel that if I am myself through and through those I am supposed to do business with either personally or professionally will cross my path and we’ll enjoy each other’s authenticity.  – Kate Wilson

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3 Responses to “Be Authentic in Your Personal Brand – Counterpoint Guest Post by Kate Wilson”

  1. Mike & Kate, great topic, and one that I think deserves a little more attention than it gets. To many people engaged in it, advocating it or selling it as a service, “personal branding” really means “personal promotion”, but your point / counterpoint discussion starts to take us deeper into those core brand questions that should be tackled before promotion ever starts.

    The logic Kate applies to having one personal brand is sound and based on core business / branding / marketing beliefs – principally that above all else, brands need to be authentic – personal or otherwise. That if everything the brand projects isn’t based in truth, the market or our customers will eventually find that out (and justifiably penalize us for trying to fool them).

    But that said, I’m not sure that people who have more than one twitter handle, Facebook account, etc. are necessarily trying to be 2, 3 or 4 different personal brands. Business and consumer brands mean different things to different people, and that’s generally okay. Most companies don’t simply create one bland message that covers the views of everyone but doesn’t speak specifically to anyone. (well okay, they do…but they shouldn’t.) They create different messages executed differently for each segment, but all crafted around authentic central brand values.

    By the same token, our personal brands can still mean different things to different people or target groups. The authentic core of the brand doesn’t necessarily change, but the execution of it – particularly through communication – does. Sometimes this comes across as adjusting your language in a setting or the material you deliver, as Kate suggests. Sometimes, the message changes by executing through a different “brand persona” that focuses its message on a particular group that is going to find it relevant.

    Again, this is a great topic and deserves more exploration, I hope you both contribute more on it, given the last point / counterpoint. The challenge we face is that we’re more emotional about our personal brand because it is much more, well, personal. The good news is that as you both point out, the fundamentals of good brand management give a good guidebook to follow.

    Thanks again.

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